Declining wheat yields

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A recent study released by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre is a concerning wake-up call for South Asian countries, especially Pakistan, regarding the future of wheat yield in the face of climate change. The study reveals that if effective measures are not taken, wheat yields in South Asian countries could decline by a significant 16% by 2050. This decline is primarily attributed to the rising temperatures brought about by climate change.

The simulations conducted for South Asian countries, with a specific focus on India and Pakistan, highlight the severity of the situation. These countries are projected to be the most affected, experiencing the greatest decline in wheat yields due to soaring temperatures. This will have significant implications for Pakistan’s food security, economy and rural livelihoods. Any decrease in wheat output could lead to increased food prices, reduced availability and potential food shortages. With lower yields, farmers may face losses, making it more difficult for them to sustain their livelihoods. Malnutrition and stunted growth rates will also surge as it will add to acute food insecurity that has gripped rural areas. Apart from this, a decrease in wheat production could lead to reduced exports, which will not just adversely affect the economy but also strain relationships with trading partners and potentially lead to a loss of market share to competitors. The country will eventually rely on imports to meet local demands, further denting the exchequer.

Thankfully, the study provides a way forward and emphasises the importance of implementing adaptation strategies to mitigate the crisis. This includes adopting crop genetic traits and improving nutrient management practices. In order to overcome the foreshadowed challenges, it is crucial for the Pakistani government and agricultural institutions to prioritise investments in research and development, provide access to improved seeds and promote sustainable farming practices that enhance resilience to climate change.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2023.

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